From places to cases, and being wise with money, Travel Editor Stephen Scourfield reviews another week in travel
We are people interested in travelling the globe, so I have to start with events shaping the world. The places we write about for you are not just “destinations”, but countries, with all their politics and prejudices. I continually monitor, research and analyse them, on your behalf.
The Thais have finally, democratically, ousted those in power who took control in a military coup in 2014, overthrowing an elected government. It was a stunning verdict. The Move Forward Party exceeding every prediction. As charismatic 42-year-old businessman Pita Limjaroenrat, pictured above, who led the MFP to victory over the military-backed groups that have dominated Thai politics for almost a decade, says . . . it is a “new day, bright with hope” for the people of Thailand.
But in Turkey, it seems the moment for change may have passed. Turkey’s powerful president Recep Tayyip Erdogan will go head to head with the opposition and main challenger Kemal Kilicdaroglu in a run-off vote on May 28, having led the first round. Since coming to power in 2002 the country has developed a militaristic foreign policy, and democracy has largely given way to one-man rule.
Cambodia’s election commission has disqualified the country’s main opposition group, the Candlelight Party, from taking part in July’s election. That will let the ruling Cambodian People’s Party run virtually unopposed.
There’s bad news for my faithful suitcase Casey.
The number of “mishandled bags” almost doubled from 2021 to 2022. A new report shows that 7.6 bags per thousand passengers get into trouble with 80 per cent of those delayed, 13 per cent damaged or pilfered and 7 per cent lost or stolen. The 2023 Baggage IT Insights report by SITA, which supplies tech to the world’s aviation industry, says that “transfer” bags are still the most likely to be delayed. Those are bags being transferred at a hub airport from one flight coming in to another going out. Staff shortages and inexperience have been combining with the massive resurgence of international and long-haul travel to lead to loading errors and higher transfer mishandling rates.
SITA chief executive David Lavorel says: “After a decade where the mishandling rate more than halved between 2007 and 2021, it is disheartening to see this rate climbing again. As an industry, we need to work hard to ensure passengers are once again confident to check-in their bags.”
SOLVING PAIN POINTS
And there’s good news for Casey.
David Lavorel explains the company is working directly with airlines and airports to help solve “key pain points” in the baggage journey. Developments include smart automation, tracking and digital platforms. Airlines are investing a lot in baggage technology — 57 per cent of all airlines now give their staff access to real-time baggage status information. That is expected to increase to 84 per cent by 2025, and 67 per cent of airlines plan to eventually offer real time baggage status directly to passengers.
SITA has developed the WorldTracer Auto Reflight system. It identifies bags that are likely to miss connecting flights and rebooks them on the next possible flight — all while keeping the passenger informed. The spokesperson explains: “SITA estimates that automation of re-flight operations could save the industry up to $30 million a year.”
SITA has been working with Lufthansa in a trial that suggests as much as 70 per cent of Lufthansa’s mishandled bags at Munich Airport could be “automatically re-flight”.
Whenever I mention aircraft sleep pillows, I get a stream of emails from readers asking me to send them details, as they’ve accidentally thrown out the paper.
First — shame on them for throwing out Travel. I’m thinking a set of leather binders would come in handy. Second — this column is your free reference, and third — here comes another . . .
The Trtl neck pillow has become widely popular, and is now included in the company’s new “deep sleep bundle”, which launched on Thursday. It includes the pillow, mini wrap, compression socks, water bottle and sleep mask, which has a “lift and peek” function, apparently. The bundle is $262. au.trtltravel.com
FILING FOR FUTURE
Reader Bev Chapman says she has “a file of newspaper clippings from Saturday’s Travel pages of possible places to visit and travel tips”.
“Back in December (3rd to be precise — I still have the page) I was looking for places to visit in Italy where we hadn’t already been and a piece by Sandy Guy featuring the northern Italian city of Brescia caught my eye. It was an absolute find — hardly any tourists, the cheapest accommodation we had in six weeks away, close to Lake Garda, easily reached by train for a daytrip, two really helpful tourist offices, great museums and art galleries. In short, it was well worth the six nights we spent there.
Another useful tip gleaned from the paper was the use of the World Wide Wallet. After Qantas failed to deliver our replacement cash cards (they had expired) in the seven to 14 days as promised, I hastily signed up for the cash card which WAS delivered very promptly. It was so useful and easy to use. I just kept enough euros on it to pay for incidentals and transferred larger amounts for hotels etc as required. Much better than a credit card. Thanks for the tip.”
WISE ON MONEY
We have mentioned the Wise travel money card, and Tristan Dakin, ANZ country manager at Wise, shares a tip:
“Always purchase in the local currency. When you purchase something overseas in-store, use an app like Uber or withdraw money through an ATM, you’re usually presented with the option of paying in the local currency or your home currency. This is known as “dynamic currency conversion” and it’s designed to exploit — not help — you. Paying in Australian dollars might sound like a good plan but it allows the merchant to convert the purchase from the local currency on your behalf, which means the exchange rate is guaranteed to be much worse compared to your card provider. The golden rule is always pay in the local currency of where you are.”
The Wise travel money card is one card with more than 50 currencies.